Blog RSS
Border Background
  1. What makes a good mentor?

    August 2, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Mentoring is a buzzword in today’s workplace, with over 70 per cent of Fortune 500 companies offering their employees professional mentoring programs. The concept is ancient, however – the term ‘mentor’ comes from Homer’s Odyssey, which dates back to the end of the eighth century BC.
    Mentor was left in charge of Odysseus’s son, Telemachus, when Odysseus left for the Trojan war, and later, the goddess Athena disguised herself as Mentor and encouraged Telemachus to stand up to his mother’s suitors and go searching for his father, who had not returned from the Trojan War. (Yes, it’s complicated. Reading the whole work is a deeply rewarding experience and is highly recommended.)
    Mentoring is not the same as coaching, which we wrote about here. It is also not the same as training, which is formal and structured, and designed to teach particular skills and competencies.
    Dr John Kenworthy of Leadership AdvantEdge defines mentoring as: ‘A working relational experience through which one person empowers and enables another by sharing their wisdom and resources’.
    At a recent session at the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) mentoring trainer Toni Greenwood said that the best mentors know about the specific company, the industry it operates within and the big-picture issues of strategic importance to both. They have a range of great interpersonal skills, including active listening, the ability to give good feedback and the courage to have difficult conversations – and then let the issue go. They will be good at challenging the person who is being mentored and reframing the issue they are facing to allow them to find their own solution. Emotional intelligence is crucial; they must show empathy, resilience and the ability to read emotions in others.
    Let’s turn again to the Odyssey for some ideas about what a mentor does.
    1. A mentor is a more experienced person who shares their wisdom with a less experienced person.
    As Mentor did for Telemachus, a mentoring relationship provides a safe space for the person who is being mentored to share the issues that are holding them back with somebody whose experience is greater. Creating a long-term relationship over time, so that both people can learn about one another, build trust and feel secure, is a foundation of the mentoring process. While there is no perfect time for the mentoring relationship to last, generally around a year is recommended. In Deloitte’s Emerging Leaders Development Program, mentoring relationships last at least two years.
    A connection with a mentor can help a high-potential employee to learn from a leader, making them ready to take on a leadership position in the organisation more quickly, and with more organisation-specific knowledge than if only skills training or coaching were offered.
    2. A mentor works alongside the person who is being mentored.
    A mentoring relationship may start out with specific goals and set competencies to achieve, but its scope usually grows beyond the initial issues to encompass anything that impacts success, such as dealing with work–life balance or developing self-confidence. Nevertheless, agreeing on areas of focus, adopting a mentoring model and the all-important business of choosing a mentor are vital in setting up the relationship and deciding on its strategic purpose.
    3. A mentor encourages the person being mentored to step outside their comfort level
    Because an important part of the mentoring relationship is directed at the person’s future in the company and not only for the immediate job, it is different to the role of manager. Companies use mentoring programs to develop leaders and to keep star performers engaged, increasing retention rates. The mentoring relationship is most productive when it is separate to the manager–employee relationship (unlike in the coaching relationship where the manager can play a more direct role).
    Just as Mentor became Telemachus’ teacher, coach, counsellor and protector, developing a relationship based on affection and trust, organisations can adopt mentoring programs to build leaders and create organisations that engage and retain top talent.


  2. Tips on how to effectively lead teams

    May 5, 2015 by Jenna

    Leading teams requires great commitment and looking outside of yourself to meet their needs. We have provided some tips below to help set you on the right path to a great leadership experience: If you are new to a leadership role they might help guide your way and if you have been at it for a while they may serve as a useful reminder.

    1. Brush up on Your Communication Skills. Having clear and precise communication is important, and being honest and open with your team helps build a level of trust. Making sure all staff understand what the goals and expectations are and giving them the opportunity to contribute their thoughts and ideas for feedback is important.

    2. Be Committed to Your Goal. Not only should you be explaining the importance of the company goals to your team, but you need to show by example that you support the goals as a leader. This involves setting out the tasks, having follow-up meetings and making sure that your team is on track with what needs to be achieved.

    3. Give Verbal Recognition. Verbal recognition for efforts and praise show your support towards the staff member’s accomplishments. It also boosts morale and positivity that encourages a mutual support among team members.

    4. A Team Leader Should Lead by Example. A great leader is someone who shouldn’t be afraid to get their hands dirty or dig in to help when the team requires additional support. Someone who can encourage team members to take risks and support them when they do.

    5. Invest in Staff Careers. To ensure your staff are up to date with the skills they need for their role, you may need to invest in training, invest time mentoring or finding the right mentor, invest time to discover what they really need and want in order to do a great job.

    6. Resolve Conflicts. Any conflict within the workplace needs to be handled promptly and assessed by leaders as soon as it arises. Appropriate measures need to be taken to find resolution or negotiate a mutual agreement. Whether it is conflict in a task or between co-workers, leaders must step up to the plate to take action and problem solve the best way that they can.

    7. Teach Adaptability. The effective team manager should teach adaptability and flexibility to all their team members. This results in better communication, a greater sense of empowerment among staff and a faster exchange of information.

    8. Build Pride in Your Team. Positive reinforcement on success is a proven way to keep staff motivation high and build pride in your team. It will increase productivity amongst the team and encourage drive towards goals. You are also creating a positive working environment that employees are happy to be a part of.

    9. Give Your Staff New Responsibilities. Just as you have developed into your role of leadership, your team are looking for development opportunities. It is important that you help them by giving them the opportunity to take on new responsibilities as the opportunities arise.

    Have you lead teams during your career? What were your first experiences when it came to leading teams? What did you find was most successful? What did you learn from the experience?


  3. 8 Ways To Get Ahead At Work

    April 8, 2014 by Jenna

    gold star

    Keeping your skills up to date is one of the key requirements for career progression, but it is only one piece of the puzzle.  Here are 8 more ways, outlined in WomansDay.com to get ahead at work:

    1.       Take on diverse assignments

    How often do you offer your assistance or ownership to new tasks? Letting fear of failure prevent you from doing a task will not help stretch you any further than where you are now.

    Perhaps there is an area of work that you are not familiar with or have not been trained on before. Why not take the opportunity to pair up with someone who is experienced in that field on a task and learn new skills? Management will appreciate your initiative to pursue new directions and learn about different sections of the organisation and roles of your team members.

    The more that you can get involved in at work, the more you are showcasing what you are capable of, and you never know what opportunities can open up as a result.

     2.       Put out fires before they start

    If you notice any potential conflict or errors on the horizon do not be afraid to speak up or use your initiative to try and solve the issue. This shows management that you can use good judgement in stressful situations and can be reliable in events when they may require an extra pair of hands.

    3.       Ask questions

    Many of us perceive the idea of asking too many questions as a sign of weakness or lacking the ability to follow instructions. In fact, you can save yourself a lot of heartache and potential problems occurring if you ask a lot of questions early on, especially when it comes to taking on new tasks or responsibilities. It is the role of management to train and guide you in the right direction, and if it appears that management may being going through a busy period find a point of contact within your organisation who may be able to steer you in the right direction.

    4.       Find-and learn from-a mentor

    While your manager can coach you on a current task, you can receive an incredible drive by directing your long term goals with someone. It is also a good motivator knowing that you have someone to be accountable to, who will follow up on your progress, whom you can receive advice from. A mentor can be anyone – a friend, colleague, or someone by mutual acquaintance (This links to a previous Challenge Consulting blog: Lessons I have learned from my mentor).

    5.       Get to the point

    Make sure when you are putting forward a new idea, proposal, and reason behind why you may want more responsibility that you keep to the point. Be confident with what you put forward and don’t waffle on. Management and colleagues will have other tasks that they also need to attend to, so they will appreciate it if you are a sharp shooter and don’t beat around the bush. Being more direct also shows that you taking the matter seriously and that you are looking for a more direct response.

    6.       Take control of your career path

    If you want advice on where to take the next step in terms of responsibilities and your career path, have you actively gone out to seek direction? Is management aware of your plans, motives, and goals? Have you set out a timeframe, follow up meetings, what training may be required? And are you following through on any feedback or advice that you may have been provided?

    Write things down, put reminders in your calendar, find your daily source of motivation and discipline yourself to follow through on what you have set out for yourself. After all, it is your life, only you can complete what you have started.

    7.       Mind your attitude

    Keeping an open mind to participate in any group or individual activity (or at least approach it with a smile) people will be more inclined to want to work with you or for you. Being proactive is much more beneficial than being a naysayer or complainer. You can use positivity to motivate others around you as well because having a positive working environment can be just as important as a positive mindset.

    There could also be a situation where you may not see eye to eye with a colleague or management on an issue at work. Instead of getting into an argument over the situation, address it sooner rather than later and try to collectively work together to find a solution. It is important in these cases to keep an open-mind and try to see the other person’s point of view.

    8.       Don’t boast about your accomplishments

    While it is important to inform management of your successes (and often we can be excited and wrapped up in the accomplishment) try not to extend every detail or repeat the same story over and over again.

    Accomplishments are important to take note of and keep on record, especially when times of review are approaching and you can specify what you have contributed to the company. Make sure you have a strong case if you are putting this forward to be considered for a promotion or salary increase. If management does not considered this a strong enough case at that point in time, make sure to ask the appropriate questions on how to get there, and if you can have a follow up meeting to discuss further opportunities.

    Have you followed any of these steps when it came to moving up in your career? If so, what direction did it take you? Was it where you expected it to go?


  4. Why it’s great to be a mentor

    July 1, 2013 by Jenna

    Have you been a mentor to others?

    Is it something that you have ever considered trying before?

    Last week I looked at the benefits of mentoring from the mentee’s perspective, this week we are reaching out to those that are more established in their careers to explore the benefits of being a mentor.

    To find out more about being a mentor and the value of providing mentorship I went straight to my mentor, Anthony Duckworth, an Events Team Leader at PwC who I attended the MEA Mentoring Program with a few years ago.I could tell Anthony enjoyed being a mentor because the moment I outlined that I was in a fairly new role in a new industry; he couldn’t help but ask me, ‘What next?

    I began the conversation by asking him why he initially volunteered his time to be a mentor. At the time of signing up to be a mentor Anthony was already working in a role that had a heavy emphasis on coaching others, but he had a real passion for helping individuals on a broader scale, rather than just individual assistance for their daily tasks.

    ‘Being a mentor for me is about passing it on – about reaching a point in my career (& life) and being able to turn my hindsight into someone else’s insight. Being a mentor is a privilege and is the most rewarding role I could be asked to play. Its a connection driven by a motivated mentee where no task based answers are sought – its more a relationship built on different perspectives, experiences and open dialogue.’

    For those of you who thought that a coach and a mentor were the same thing, I have listed similarities and differences below:

    Coaching

    • Task focus (current and future)
    • Skills and performance Focus
    • Empowerment and accountability for results is shared
    • Usually a line manager role
    • Agenda set with coach
    • Focus on short term (6-12 months)
    • Initiated by line manager
    • Coach provides solutions
    • Feedback to participant
    • Fosters co-dependence leading to independence
    • Deals with factual information
    • Promotes Self Esteem

    Mentoring

    • Discovery and development of capability and potential (future)
    • Empowerment of participants to develop their own abilities
    • Can be a non line manager role
    • Agenda set by participant
    • Focus on long term (1 year plus)
    • Initiated by participant
    • Solutions are set together
    • Feedback by participant
    • Fosters independence
    • Deals with feelings and factual information
    • Promotes Self Esteem

    While a coach is valuable for resolving on the spot issues and directing your current position and tasks, the mentor will be valuable in helping you decipher the ‘what if’ scenarios of your future and how you can turn those dreams into a reality.

    Can anyone be mentor? Of course!

    Anthony told me about his first mentor. Very early in his career, Anthony was attending a conference where one of the guest speakers really inspired him. He wrote a hand-written note in an attempt to make a connection with the individual. He had no idea whether he would get a response or not, but he used his initiative. The mentor was so touched by the hand written note that he shared this note with his family and he was very moved by Anthony’s personal touch. And would you believe it, Anthony still meets with this mentor to this day – many years later!

    So what is the value in becoming a mentor?

    For Anthony, the greatest reward is being energised by being with an individual who is eager to learn, motivated, enthusiastic and follows up.  Someone who can communicate, challenge you as a mentor through open questions and is genuinely seeking the mentor’s guidance. He feels that he is really able to help, but at the same learn so much himself through the process.

    This of course is all subject to the relationship that you build with a mentee, and as a mentor you must be as open and willing to build a relationship with your mentee as much as they are willing to seek you out for your support and guidance.

    And I can comfortably say that there are a lot of mentees out there, whether they are new to an industry or a recent graduate, and they may not even be seeking someone in the same industry, just someone who can provide them with a fresh, creative and wise approach to their future.

    I haven’t had a chance to be a mentor to others, but I can say that if I had the opportunity I would certainly take it.

    Do you have any stories about the benefits of mentoring or what you have learned from your mentor?


  5. What qualities do YOU think represent a remarkable boss?

    March 28, 2012 by Jenna

    Have you ever wondered as an employee if you were given the opportunity to be ‘the boss’ for your workplace, what you would do differently? Would your approach to the role be even more remarkable than just managing tasks?

    On the other hand, you may also be in the position of ‘the boss’ and have your own methods and qualities that you have learned over the years that you have found to work really well in the workplace.

    Regardless of where your position is currently, in last week’s poll I listed what I thought to be some key qualities which were:

    • Strong leadership qualities
    • Someone who has the ability to be diplomatic in difficult situations
    • Someone who can motivate their staff
    • Someone who can adapt to changes in the workplace
    • Someone who is reliable

    Of course the list of qualities can be endless depending on your personal preferences, however, based on the list above, the top two choices that received the highest votes were: Someone who could motivate their staff (76%) and Strong Leadership Qualities (74%) with reliability coming in third.

    I was also happy to read your responses to see how important you found the value of having a close relationship with your employers, having someone who is ‘genuine’, ‘approachable’, ‘trustworthy’  and with strong ‘listening skills’ when it comes to their staff. Someone who can also promote their staff, developing them within their roles by being a mentor and sharing the company vision.

    ‘The most outstanding bosses I’ve ever had, don’t generally see themselves as ‘the boss’. They see themselves as one of the others and act accordingly. Obviously they put on their boss hat when needed and can mentor me and guide me, but we can then go to lunch and laugh together about common things.’

    I remember once in a previous role, an email was sent out with different levels on management CC’d in the correspondence about a particular event that I was running at the time. The person who distributed this email had made a comment, which appeared almost like an accusation, about a situation that had not been handled properly directed at myself without first corresponding with me on the situation.

    As we all know, tone can often be misread in emails, but needless to say I felt humiliated, especially since higher levels of management were included on this email and I did not have a chance to explain myself before being blamed for something that was actually a false conclusion.

    Without even having to ask, my boss responded with a ‘Reply All’ to that comment, as I had been liaising with her on all aspects of the event, and in a very professional and assertive manner explained the accurate details of the situation and put that staff member in their place. We later had a meeting with that staff member and we never had a miscommunication on email again.

    I know how busy employers can be, but wow did I ever feel valued as an employee that day. I was very lucky to have such open environment for communication with my boss because otherwise who knows what the outcome of that situation would have been.

    A recent article posted on www.inc.com listed ‘The 5 Qualities of Remarkable Bosses’ as the following:

    1. Develop every employee – not just reaching targets, but providing the training, mentoring and opportunities that your employees need and deserve.
    2. Deal with problems immediately – Nothing kills team morale more quickly than problems that don’t get addressed.
    3. Rescue your worst employee – Before you remove your weak link from the chain, put your full effort into trying to rescue that person instead. Find out what is going on and work together on improvement strategies.
    4. Serve others, not yourself – If it should go without saying, don’t say it. Your glory should always be reflected, never direct.
    5. Always remember where you came from – In the eyes of his or her employees, a remarkable boss is a star. Remember where you came from, and be gracious with your stardom. If an employee wants to talk about something that seems inconsequential, try not to blow them off, as they are seeking you for a reason.

    I personally like number five. Sometimes we have been in a particular role for so long that we often forget that we were once in a junior position. We forget how important it was to seek someone that we looked up to who could guide us in the right direction, especially with our future careers. How can we ever know what potential the junior staff have if we do not allow them the opportunity to seek that advice so that they can grow?

    So maybe the strongest quality of all as the boss is to be ‘human’. If employers can’t relate to their staff and are just trying to reach deadlines, more will be at a loss then what you could gain through working together. If interaction/communication is lacking, then all employees may as well be ‘robots’ in the daily grind. Fortunately, as individuals, we are much more valuable then machines.

    Haven’t had your say? Please do not hesitate to express your feedback below, otherwise I have launched our new weekly poll: Would you hire someone based on potential or experience?

    The results for this poll will be published after 10th April 2012 as I am off to New Zealand to take part in my walk for charity so stay tuned and have a wonderful Easter! If you have time this weekend, feel free to have a look at the progress of my team The Bush Ramblers.


  6. What is the #1 thing that would make you feel truly welcome on your first day in a new job?

    August 16, 2011 by Jenna

    Challenge Consulting has a Facebook page. “Like” us now to stay in touch re our new blog posts, weekly poll, links and more …

    ______________________________

    One wit I know maintained that “having songs written and sung in my name” was a perfect introduction. Another suggested “a fruit basket”.  

    Lovely, apt even, if one is beginning work with a fruiterer, but perhaps not #1 on most people’s list of first-day expectations. 

    So, what was #1 in our online poll last week? 

    #1 = In-person introductions to your key colleagues, junior and senior – 32.7%

    #2 = Being assigned to a “buddy” for your first week while you learn the ropes – 24.5% 

    #3 = Feeling expected by your new workplace and colleagues when you arrive – 13.1% 

    =#4 = Having a desk, equipment and a computer ready for you – 9.8% / Immediate involvement in “real” work or a team project – 9.8%

    Nothing makes a new person feel more like part of a company than warm, personal welcomes from the people they’ll be working with and, perhaps more importantly, for. 

    “Make sure that the first day’s schedule is full of meeting people and onboarding activities. Schedule a good portion of the morning with the new employee’s boss and mentor. Don’t let the day go to waste and contain nothing but paperwork and HR meetings. The day is for bonding with the boss, the mentor, and coworkers.”* 

    After one week on the job, the employee should begin to feel comfortable with her responsibilities, have met at least one new business contact each day, be familiar with team members (inside her department and outside) and be able to walk into your office with any questions. Arrange an informal session of drinks, cake, or something similar with the other team members at the end of the week so the new hire can assess what she has learned, ask the group questions and hang out in a less formal setting. 

    And what of the notion of being assigned to a “buddy”, which came in at #2 in our online poll? What is a buddy? What do they do? And why can they make such a difference? 

    A buddy is an experienced employee who partners with a new employee to provide guidance and encouragement during a defined period, typically the first two to three months of employment.  A buddy helps reduce new employee uncertainty by being available to answer immediate or routine questions. They relate new employee information to actual situations, and can suggest experiences and provide information to help the new employee become an “insider.” 

    To be a buddy, an employee should know and be committed to their department or work area, understand the company’s culture, have good interpersonal skills, be a respected performer and role model, be a peer of the new employee, and want to help.  A buddy must also be given time to support the new employee. 

    Of course, the flip side of this equation is that it’s not just up to your new company and colleagues to ease you into your new role. You are a professional. You are there to do a job and you are getting paid money for it. So, it’s also up to you to make the best impression you can during your first days in a new job.

    Here are some top tips for all newbies (and, quite frankly, some of them can be applied even if you’ve been in your job for a while!): 

    Your First Days Working at a New Job: 20 Tips to Help You Make a Great Impression**

    1. Have a Positive Attitude: Nothing works better – in all situations – than having and expressing a positive attitude. Let your enthusiasm for being part of the team and the organisation show to everyone you interact with. And always leave non-work problems at home.

    2. Dress Professionally / Blend in With Co-Workers: You should never underestimate the importance of dressing professionally in your new job. And in the beginning, even if your department has casual days, you should dress professionally because you never know when you’ll be called out to meet a top manager or key client. “Dress how you want people to perceive you because it plays a huge role in how you are initially treated,” advises Desiree Devaney, a financial analyst with GE Capital Credit.

    3. Show Your Team Spirit: You are now part of a work team, and teams work together to solve problems and get the job done. Show loyalty to your co-workers and focus more – initially at least – on sharing any recognition you get with the team. Always give credit to the team.

    4. Learn Co-Workers’ Names Quickly: No one expects you to have everyone’s name down pat by the end of the first day or week, but if you are bad with names, now is the time to research some of the neat memory-aid tricks you can try to use. 

    5. Ask Questions/Ask for Help: No one expects you to solve all the organisation’s problems on your first days on the job – nor that you know everything – so, relax a bit, and always ask questions or ask for help when you need it. Remember that it’s better to ask before you’ve completed the task the wrong way and wasted all that time. 

    6. Take Notes / Go to Orientation: Unless you have a photographic memory – and few of us do – consider taking notes on all the various systems and rules of the organisation. And no matter how boring they may sound, attend all orientation sessions. Nothing gets old faster than someone repeatedly asking how something works; such behaviour shows a lack of attention to detail. 

    7. Be a Self-Starter; Take Initiative: In most situations, in your first days on the job, you will be given small doses of work – to let you get your feet wet. As you finish assignments and are ready to handle a bigger workload, take the initiative and ask for more assignments. Whatever you do, don’t just sit there waiting for your next project. 

    8. Discover Everything About Your New Employer: In theory, you should have already done your homework during the interviewing process, but there is always more to learn now that you are on the inside. “Get an employee handbook” exhorts a MBA grad with an information-technology concentration. “Don’t act or think you know more about everything than your peers.” In addition, gather all those reports and company literature and read up and become an expert on your organisation. 

    9. Work Full Days: There’s nothing that can affect your reputation faster than routinely coming into work late or leaving work early. Especially in these first days/weeks on the job, be sure you get to work early and leave no earlier than when the majority of your co-workers leave. 

    10. Establish a Good Attendance Record: Just as with working full days, it’s important to show up to work every day and establish a good attendance record. Yes, there will be emergencies, and yes, you may get sick, but as best you can, try to make it to work every day during those first weeks/months on the job.

    11. Avoid Office Politics and Gossip: As with any social organisation, the workplace is full of rumours and gossip. Your mission is to keep your nose clean of all of it – and be sure not to associate too often with the office gossips or risk having your image associated with them.

    12. Keep Personal Business on Company Time to a Minimum: Studies show that just about everyone conducts some amount of personal business on company time – checking email, making dinner reservations, buying stuff online. Your goal is to keep your personal business to a minimum and stay focused on work. 

    13. Take Advantage of After-Hours Activities: Many organisations have formal or informal after-hour activities, such as sports leagues. Get involved – even if only as a cheerleader – because these types of activities are great ways to bond with your co-workers. Do be on your best behaviour during these outside-work activities, though.

    14. Show Appreciation: Nothing works like kindness and genuine appreciation. So, show your appreciation to everyone who helps you learn the ropes during your first days on the job – from your co-workers to receptionists to the human resources folks. 

    15. Find a Mentor: You don’t need to jump on this task your first day, but as you get introduced to senior staff, begin thinking about developing a mentoring relationship with a member of management above you – and outside your department – in the organisation. Mentoring has numerous benefits, from a simple sounding board to someone who helps direct and advance your career within the organisation. 

    16. Get and Stay Organised / Set Goals: If you’re one of those super-organised people, this tip will be easy for you. The rest of us, however, need to develop a system for keeping track of meetings, appointments, assignments, and projects. Get an organiser or planner and keep on top of all your work. You certainly don’t want to miss an early key deadline or meeting. And as you look ahead, set goals for yourself s- and then strive to achieve them.

    17. Keep Your Boss Informed – of Everything: Your boss is not a mind-reader, so keep him/her informed of how you are doing. Especially in those early days, meet with your boss to further establish a rapport and relationship. 

    18. Meet and Network with Key People in Organisation & Profession: Join an organisation outside of work. Take additional classes to stay ahead in your field. Take advantage of every opportunity to network with key people in your organization and profession – attend staff meetings, professional organisation conferences, trade shows – every opportunity to meet colleagues in your field. Just because you have a new job does not mean you suspend your network; constantly manage and grow your network of contacts because you never know when a problem or opportunity will arise. And networking with key people can also help you in finding one or more mentors. 

    ______________________________

    * How to Welcome a New Employee 

    ** Your First Days Working at a New Job: 20 Tips to Help You Make a Great Impression




SUBSCRIBE Join Our Mail List
Border Background